Just shy of three weeks until Christmas, which means I’m now OK with the Christmas music on the radio when I drive.
• This is why he got an MVP vote:
Can I blow your mind real quick here?
2020’s nastiest pitches, as ranked by Whiff%
Fourth you have Rookie of the Year Devin Williams’ Airbender screwball.
Third is Cy Young Shane Bieber’s slider.
Second is former Cy Young Blake Snell’s curve.
RYAN TEPERA’S CUTTER
— Cubs Prospects – Bryan Smith (@cubprospects) December 1, 2020
• From the first second we got a look at the pitch during those exhibition games against the White Sox, it’s clear that the pitch was ridiculous. What I’ve wondered – and I’m about to check live as best as the data allows – is whether the whiff rate dropped as the season went on and players had some scouting on the new pitch. I feel, anecdotally, like it did. We know that Tepera’s overall effectiveness waned in the second half, so maybe it was because the cutter lost some of its magic (at least in the eyes of the batters). OK, checking now, and posting the chart …
• And yup. As the season went on, Tepera leaned on the cutter more and more heavily, because obviously. But as he did, the swinging strike rate dropped pretty significantly. Don’t get me wrong, a 19-20% swinging strike rate on a pitch you’re using nearly half the time is really, really good. But it’s not quite MVP level. It might be a situation, going forward, where more balance in the pitch mix will be necessary for the cutter to stay at peak effectiveness. That is to say, it’s a fine line between using your best pitch as much as possible, but also not using it SO much that you’re trading off optimized results if you worked in more of your other pitches. Not too many pitchers can be Mariano Rivera.
• Tepera is arbitration-eligible, by the way, and we’ll see if he’s tendered a contract, is let go, or maybe agrees to a pre-tender deal.
• Speaking of which, I read Kiley McDaniel’s long non-tender article at ESPN+, which includes extensive discussion of Kris Bryant, but I didn’t see a whole lot to really get into. There are a couple premises in there that don’t really make sense to me without more – trading Bryant for minimal return is worse optics than non-tendering him? his hard hit percentage was down in 2020, so he’s really trending badly? – so I’ll share here if you want to read for the other, broader non-tender talk. But the Cubs specific stuff, eh, I’m not sure if it’s spot on.
• Miscellaneous note here, which tracks well with my write-up of the Cubs’ advantageous catching situation yesterday:
An interesting observation from one evaluator: The catching market is loaded with a lot of options… but very few players you'd believe could handle the rigor of catching every day. Lots of older veterans who might be best suited to be complementary No. 2s.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 1, 2020
• One of the Cubs’ best waiver moves in recent years:
April 4, 2012: One day before his first Opening Day as President of the Cubs, Theo selects infielder Luis Valbuena off waivers from Toronto. pic.twitter.com/qm4sRlgWJa
— All of Theo’s moves (Daily Random Cub) (@DailyRandomCub) December 2, 2020
• I can’t believe it’s been two years now since Valbuena passed away. RIP, Luis.
• This is really cool, because I never knew this backstory on the guy who took Ernie Banks’ spot at shortstop when Mr. Cub moved to first base:
• Javy’s birthday was yesterday, but I sent this out late, and you might not have seen it yet – just four stray plays from ONE season (2019) that really underscore how absurdly enjoyable this guy is:
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) December 2, 2020
• Oh, also, this:
• Make it so:
Joakim Noah “Likely Headed Toward Retirement” After Clippers Let Him Hit Waivers (COME HOME, JO!)https://t.co/IvU4eZog2b
— Bleacher Nation Bulls (@BN_Bulls) December 2, 2020